Woman's World

Christy and her blind therapy kitty, Tommy, have brought comfort and healing to thousands

- — Alexandra Pollock

Christy Santoro’s blind foster kitty, Tommy, had always been a special guy, capable of bringing comfort in her darkest moments. So much so that she got him certified as a therapy cat—and together, they’ve brought happiness and healing to thousands who need it most!

This is your new foster cat, Tommy!” Christy Santoro’s heart swelled as she scooped up the kitten before her, rubbing his head as he purred gently in her arms. He’s such a sweet, mellow boy, Christy mused— an amazing characteri­stic in a cat who had been through so much in his short life. Just 4 weeks old, little Tommy had been taken in by the Animal Network in Las Vegas and suffered from a bad eye infection that severely limited his sight.

Having had experience raising cats with disabiliti­es, Christy immediatel­y signed on to foster the kitten, but after just a day with Tommy, she knew their bond was too strong to ever let him go.

“There’s just something so special about him,” she’d say to herself, watching the youngster grow sweeter and more social with every day that passed. Even when she needed to give him medicine for his eyes and when he eventually had surgery to remove them, leaving him permanentl­y blind, Tommy’s sweet-hearted nature never faltered: He still loved meeting new people, greeting guests at Christy’s front door and even going on walks on his leash.

Most amazingly, Tommy did something else: In any of Christy’s down moments, he’d intentiona­lly comfort her. When she was sick or feeling low, he would come to her, gently laying himself down on her chest while pressing his paws to her heart and nuzzling her chin, as if to say, I love you, I am here for you, to soothe all of her worries.

I wish other people had a cat to do this for them, Christy thought one day, when suddenly it hit her: Maybe Tommy could do that for others too!

Spreading joy and comfort

A few days later, while talking to a friend who had just had her dog certified as a therapy pet, Christy learned just how Tommy could help others: by becoming a trained therapy cat.

“He’s definitely got the temperamen­t for it,” Christy agreed with her friend. “But aren’t therapy animals usually dogs?”

Her friend explained that it was true, many organizati­ons don’t certify cats—but she had found one called Pet Partners of Las

Vegas that would. Intrigued, Christy immediatel­y went on their website to see how she could get Tommy certified as a therapy animal.

As it turned out, the process was simple— all she had to do was create an account on Pet Partners’ website, take the online pet handler’s course and complete a health screening form with her vet to confirm that Tommy was healthy. Once that was complete, she and Tommy attended their team evaluation where a simulated therapy animal visit was conducted by a volunteer evaluator—which Tommy passed with flying colors.

After submitting their applicatio­n to become a therapy pet team, Christy paid the registrati­on fee, and Tommy was officially certified.

Today, three years into their tenure as a therapy team, Tommy and Christy, who is now retired, travel everywhere from local senior care facilities to schools, community events and hospitals, bringing joy, comfort and wisdom about the importance of acceptance and kindness wherever they go. “It’s amazing to see the transforma­tion he brings out in people,” Christy says, sharing one of her favorite memories of Tommy in a memory care center. “One woman came in with her fists clenched. She was obviously having a hard time walking, so we sat her down and put Tommy in her lap. In minutes, her hands started to open and she began to relax. That would have never been possible without Pet Partners’ help!” And to make sure every would-be therapy cat gets their chance to help others just like Tommy, Purina Cat Chow has partnered with Pet Partners to donate $ 30,000 to fund the training and registrati­on of more therapy cats (to learn more, visit Petpartner­s.org/catchow).

For Christy, nothing could make her happier. “It’s amazing to see the impact that Tommy has on those who need it!” she smiles. “Seeing their faces light up with joy brings me joy!”

“It’s amazing to see the impact my cat has on so many lives— including my own!”

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 ??  ?? “Seeing Tommy bring joy to others brings me joy!” says Christy of her blind therapy cat
“Seeing Tommy bring joy to others brings me joy!” says Christy of her blind therapy cat
 ??  ?? Tommy visits nursing homes, schools and hospitals
His condition helps teach compassion, kindness and acceptance
Tommy visits nursing homes, schools and hospitals His condition helps teach compassion, kindness and acceptance

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